CLINE_SJ

U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, left, stands outside Stonewall Jackson High School with student Tyler Burns, 17, of Quicksburg on Wednesday. Burns wrote an email to Cline asking him to come speak to his government class.

QUICKSBURG — Tyler Burns got his wish on Wednesday afternoon.

The Stonewall Jackson senior e-mailed U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, earlier this year to see if he would come to the school to talk about his job in Congress, and on Wednesday Cline showed up to talk to approximately 40 history students.

“I didn’t think he would respond,” Burns said before Cline went into the school to talk to students. “...I think it means that Congress actually cares. They don’t just care about the the big populations with money, they care about everyone. Obviously, we’re not the wealthiest county, but it shows that they still care by showing up and talking.”

Cline said he gets lots of packets of letters from students who are given an assignment to reach out to their congressman, but the email he received from Burns stood out.

“It wasn’t part of a packet, it wasn’t part of an assignment,” Cline said. “It was a student genuinely trying to get more information for themselves, and we want to encourage that among our young people today.”

Cline said Burns’ email said that he and his fellow classmates were about to be new voters and they wanted to know more information about government to help them as voters.

Stonewall Jackson U.S. government teacher Holly Means said she is very proud of Burns.

“We were teaching this unit and we were talking about Congress and our congressional representative,” Means said. “And how here even in the Shenandoah Valley we have someone representing us in big ole Washington. Tyler is a very inquisitive and very intelligent young man, and he asks a million questions. And one of his questions was ‘why don’t you e-mail and invite congressman Cline to come,’ and I said, ‘I have a better idea — why don’t you e-mail congressman Cline’ and he did.”

Cline said he tries to visit schools as much as he can, although that has slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said he believes it’s important for schools to be reopened.

“The kids I’ve spoken to, including my own, are tired of the virtual. I don’t even want to estimate how much damage I did to my own children when I tried to educate them myself,” Cline said jokingly. “They need to be back in front of qualified teachers and surrounded by their friends and their classmates. That’s a part of the whole learning environment, and I know students want to get back to that too.”

Stonewall Jackson High School, along with Ashby Lee Elementary School, will be renamed July 1 as part of a resolution against racism the Shenandoah County School Board made last summer. Stonewall Jackson will be renamed Mountain View High School and Ashby Lee will be renamed Honey Run Elementary.

Cline said the renaming is up to the School Board and Board of Supervisors, but he isn’t in favor of the urge to change the names of many places throughout the country.

“I know its controversial here,” Cline said. “I’m from Lexington, so Stonewall Jackson is from Lexington and there’s a rich history there surrounding his name. I’m also very concerned about cancel culture. I don’t think it contributes to the rich history that we have here in the Valley. We need to embrace it and tell the whole story — good and bad — about our history and all the different aspects and learn from it and move forward. So that’s what I would hope not just here but across the country, we would kind of avoid the cancel culture and let’s tell the full story of the history of this great country.”

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